Sunday, November 22, 2009

Week #11 of 2009 - Packers v. 49ers

The Packers are coming off a HUGE conference win at home over the Cowboys. This week the Packers host the hot and cold San Francisco 49ers who haven't beat the Packers since the T.O. crying catch in the playoffs in 1999. Here is a look at the top 10 players that will line up against the Packers this week (note that Nate Clements would definitely be in the list if he were healthy):

#10 - Barry Sims (LT): he stepped in for Joe Staley and has been the only consistent contributor on the offensive line for the 49ers the last few weeks. A dinosaur for NFL lineman (34 years old), Sims is turning back the clock in a big way for the 49ers.

#9 - Manny Lawson (OLB): a physical freak, Lawson provides speed at the outside linebacker position. The biggest knock on Lawson is his inability to cover in space but with his speed allows him to make-up for his coverage deficiencies.

#8 - Michael Lewis (SS): a big thumper at safety, Lewis provides a physical presence in the secondary. If Finley (assuming he is healthy) gets into one on one situations it should be interesting to see them battle against each other.

#7 - Alex Smith (QB): after stating the season as the back-up quarterback to Shaun Hill, Smith came in a few weeks ago to ignite the 49ers and win back the starting QB job. In the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith was taken 1st overall over Aaron Rodgers while Mike McCarthy was the 49ers offensive coordinator. Smith was expected to start right away while Rodgers had a the luxury of sitting behind a hall of fame quarterback. 4 1/2 years later the Packers are in a much better position with Rodgers then the 49ers with Smith. As a point of reference here are the rest of the quarterbacks taken in the 2005 NFL Draft: Jason Campbell (1st round), Charlie Frye (3rd round), Andrew Walter (3rd round), David Greene (3rd round), Kyle Orton (4th round), Stefan LeFors (4th round), Dan Orlovsky (5th round), Adrian McPherson (5th round), Cleveland’s Derek Anderson (6th round), James Kilian (7th round), Matt Cassel (7th round) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (7th round). The 49ers would much rather have at least four guys from the aforementioned list (Rodgers, Campbell, Orton and Cassell) and settle for a number of the other quarterbacks that were taken later in the draft (Walter, Orlovsky, Anderson and Fitzpatrick) instead of drafting Smith 1st overall. The 49ers missed on a bunch of studs that went in the top 15 picks of the 2005 NFL Draft because they took Smith. I recommend you skip this list if you are a 49ers fan, here are the studs from the top 15 picks in the 2005 NFL Draft: Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, DeMarcus Ware, Shawn Merriman and Jamal Brown.

#6 - Michael Crabtree (WR): almost a Green Bay Packer, Crabtree was taken one pick after the Packers selected defensive tackle B.J. Raji out of Boston College #9 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Ted Thompson has always taken the "best player available" in his mind. In moving to the 3-4, it was prudent of Thompson to pass on Crabtree with the depth the Packers have at wide receiver (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones) and nab a potential building block on the defensive side of the ball. After holding out for more money, Crabtree finally signed with the 49ers in early October. Since joining the team, Crabtree has assumed the #1 receiver position.

#5 - Justin Smith (RE): the former Cincinnati Bengal provides the ideal defensive end in Mike Singletary's 3-4 scheme. Smith is not the flashiest player in the NFL but he eats up offensive lineman which allows linebackers opportunities to capitalize.

#4 - Vernon Davis (TE): taken one pick after A.J. Hawk in the 2007 NFL Draft, Davis is becoming an elite tight end under Mike Singletary after underachieving his first few seasons in San Francisco. Singletary sent Davis to the locker room during a game last season because of attitude issues. Since then, Davis has answered the bell becoming a team captain and leader for the 49ers.

#3 - Aubrayo Franklin (NT): very similar to Jay Ratliff (Cowboys), Franklin is a perfect nose tackle for the 3-4 defense. Similar to Justin Smith, Franklin does not put up gaudy statistics (24 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss and 1 interception) but gives linebackers opportunities to make plays.

#2 - Frank Gore (RB): although he has been dinged up a little this season, when healthy Gore has top 5 running back in the NFL potential. Packers' fans will remember Gore breaking off a 72 yards in 2006. If the Packers can bottle up Gore, the 49ers become very one dimensional. That will allow Dom Capers to send some exotic blitzes and keep Smith off balance all day.

#1 - Patrick Willis (MLB): possibly the best middle linebacker in the NFL. Willis is following in the footsteps of his head coach leading the team in almost every defensive statistic (88 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 1 defensive touchdown.

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